Question: What are the punishments for DUI in Virginia?
Answer: It depends. DUI is punished more or less severely depending on a number of factors, including:
- Was there a car accident involved in the scenario? Was anyone hurt?
- If a breath or blood test had been conducted, was the results over 0.15 or 0.20?
- Did the accused refuse a breath or blood test?
- Has the accused previously been convicted of DUI?
- Did the accused appear to be excessively intoxicated? Was he or she driving all over the road? Once out of the car, did he or she have extreme difficulty standing?
- Was the accused polite?
The mandatory minimum punishment for a first offense, low breath score DUI conviction is a $250 fine (plus court costs), a 12 month license suspension (with restricted privileges so long as an ignition interlock device is installed on the car), and a requirement that one enter and complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program. While not required, it is common for one convicted for DUI to have a probationary period with an entirely suspended jail sentence attached.
The punishment increases depending on certain aggravating factors.
The maximum punishment is up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $2,500, plus court costs. Few people are sentenced to the maximum. The crime of DUI is a misdemeanor, unless there is an accident wherein someone is seriously injured or killed or unless one had been previously convicted of two DUIs in the prior ten years.
If there is an accident and someone dies (even if the death was truly unintentional and even if the the allegedly intoxicated driver was not really “at fault”), the DUI is charged as a felony and not a misdemeanor. There is no mandatory minimum punishment, but the maximum punishment is 10 years in prison. People in Virginia really do get life-changing sentences like this for DUI accidents wherein someone dies.
If, in a DUI fatality case, the judge or jury finds that the accused acted in a gross, wanton and culpable manner as to show a reckless disregard for human life, the maximum punishment is 20 years in prison. The mandatory minimum sentence is one year in prison.
If there is an accident and no one dies, then the DUI case remains a misdemeanor. However, it is common for someone convicted for a first offense DUI after having a collision to receive some jail time, depending on the severity of the accident — the worse the accident, the worse the punishment in many cases.
High Blood or Breath Test Results
If one is convicted of a first offense DUI, but his blood or breath test score was between 0.15 and 0.20, there is a mandatory minimum 5 day jail sentence. If his or her score is above 0.20, there is a mandatory 10 day jail sentence. (Yes, people — even very good people — get this; a judge cannot reduce or suspend this minimum jail time by law). These mandatory minimums increase if one had previously been convicted of a DUI — the jail time rises to 10 days.
If one had previously been convicted of a DUI, the two mandatory minimum sentences rise to 10 days (for a second offense within 10 year of a prior offense) and 20 days of mandatory minimum jail (for a second offense within 5 years of a prior offense).
Repeat Offenses /Prior DUI Convictions
The more times one is convicted of a DUI, the worse the punishment usually is.
If one is convicted of a second offense DUI within 10 years of a prior offense, the mandatory minimum sentence is 10 days in jail. If the second offense is within 5 years of the prior offense, the mandatory minimum is 20 days. For both, the mandatory minimum fine is $500. In addition, one’s license is suspended for 3 years.
If one is convicted of a third offense, the DUI is a felony. The mandatory minimum jail sentence is 90 days if the prior offenses were within 10 years of the new offense; one year in jail if the prior offenses were within 5 years of the new offense. For both, the mandatory minimum fine is $1,000. In addition, one’s license is suspended indefinitely.
Mandatory Minimum Punishments Stack Up
The mandatory minimum sentences outlined about run consecutive to each other (one after the other). So, if one has a second offense DUI conviction within 5 years of a prior offense, with a breath or blood test score of 0.15, he or she will be sentenced to, at least, 20 days in jail for the second offense within 5 years and 10 days in jail for the breath or blood score of 0.15, for a total of 30 days in jail. Because the jail time is “mandatory minimum” time, a person so convicted must serve every day of the sentence in jail with no “good behavior” credits.
Determining punishments for DUI can be complicated. For a free evaluation of a case and potential punishment, contact us.